The US is now considering building an Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) defense. Whether such a "Star Wars" defense is even feasible is highly controversial. But, if it worked, even imperfectly, could it save money by replacing other weapon systems?


President Bush's initiative on ABM makes little sense as a defense against nuclear attacks by "rogue states," such as Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea— since, at present, none of these countries have any deployed intercontinental missiles, and, in the future, if it was ever successfully deplored, they could resort to other delivery methods, such as suitcases and airliners (which they do possess.)

But the Bush initiative lays the groundwork for a more pragmatic ABM defense. "Rogue state" rhetoric not withstanding, it also includes, what the President describes as "near term" options for "capabilities to intercept missiles ... after they re-enter the atmosphere." Such interception in the atmosphere, where decoys are no longer a problem is a point defense. Point defenses are presently restricted by the 1972 ABM treaty.

If carried out, it will require both deploying a new generation of so-called PARs, Phased-Array Radars capable of tracking incoming missiles and, in milliseconds, directing interceptor towards them in milliseconds, and also breaking-out of the 1972 treaty with the Soviet Union (which limits both PAR radars and interceptors.)

Once the treaty is scrapped, the US is free to shield its missile silo complexes with ABM point-defense systems. How can this save money?

At present, the US relies exclusively on its underwater missile platforms— the Trident submarines— to deter an attack on its land-based missile and aircraft. These missiles don't shoot down other missiles, but they provide a relatively-invulnerable secondary force that could retaliate, after all our land-based missiles and bombers were lost.. So they prevent an attack. (The only nation with a capability to attack US land based missiles is Russia.) But the back-up force is extremely expensive. Each Trident II submarine, with 24 missiles, costs between $3.5 and $4.5 billion dollars, and three Tridents are necessary to keep one on station. The Trident fleet, including its underwater communications and defense systems, cost over $100 billion. And just maintaining this submerged"shield" for the land-based forced costs over $15 billion a year.

If an ABM point defense, supplemented by mid flight interception, protected the US silo complexes to the exrent that they were as likely to survive a surprise attack as the Trident submarine platforms(which are not invulnerable with space survellance), the Trident fleet could be retired, saving $10 to $20 billion a year in operating costs

Collateral Question: Would the US Navy, or its allies in Congress, ever accept such an exchange of ABM for submerged deterrent?

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